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A Confession

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m not super compassionate…well, kinda.

I have to be honest, I get tired of reading articles and whatnot about people in America who are struggling financially. I mean, I know that is a real ordeal going on. God has been very good to my wife and I. As the recession was going on – we never felt it. We were very well taken care of. Even now, as my wife can’t find a job, we’re doing great.

But I have to be honest again, as I read about people who have thousands of dollars in student loan debt and they can’t pay it off, I don’t have much compassion. As I read about the spiked poverty levels recently in America, I had very little compassion and tolerance. Why? Because the Americanized culture is so materialistic.

As I read about people who have $90k in debt and they can’t find a job, it’s hard for me to look on them and go “Oh, you poor soul” because I question financial decisions leading them $90k into debt. It gets even worse whenever the interview talks about them having to make their car payments, which anyone who knows anything about cars knows that you should never finance a car because you pay much more on it than what it is ever worth.

But yet, I am compassionate. Most recently, as I was in Haiti, we were driving through the streets of Port-au-Prince, and I saw a little cafe. Now, don’t think Starbucks, or some other little local place like we have in America. Think of a block building with no one in it and it says “cafe” on the top. My assumption is that someone owns a small little restaurant there with no tables and people can come in and buy some food. I began to think – “How many of the Haitians that I have come to know over the past four years have ever sat down and said, ‘Let’s go out to eat tonight!'” It hit me of how there are SO many things in America that we have that the rest of the world doesn’t.

I struggle with this. I struggle with materialism.

I’ve heard people say, “It doesn’t mean we should deny ourselves a treat every now and then…” and in a lot of ways, I agree. But I have to ask myself occasionally – “What if I denied myself that $6 I spent at Sonic on ice cream each time and sent it to Haiti to feed a family?” Which is more beneficial?

Now, the other side of me has compassion for America. I know that there are people who are working hard and trying to get jobs and they are still not ever getting a leg up. I know this is a tough economy for the majority of people out there. I know that some people are really trying. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. But I argue that for most people, it can be looked at from their history that they never really tried. The decisions that are made usually lead people to where they are in America. I know plenty of people who make great decisions with their money. (READ: They don’t spend money that they don’t have.) Those are the people who haven’t felt a pinch from the hurt economy. I know one guy who lived that way. He lost his job last August. He didn’t have a job in June. And he wasn’t hurting at all! Why? Because he was smart with his money. Materialism was there, but it was still a distance away because he recognized that he couldn’t live like the rest of the world.

This is essentially a big ramble, but my hopes are that people who read this do a little self-examination. Are you really a good steward? Would I have compassion on you? (Probably not. I’m a jerk. And you’re probably not Haitian.) I have to work on my compassion for sure. It’s a weakness.

If I cannot love my neighbor in America, then I have no business loving my neighbor elsewhere with someone beside me hurting.

What mission fields do I miss in America?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ashley R
    September 24, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I agree with everything except the car financing bit. Not everyone has the luxury of waiting to have the money in full to buy a new car. I didn’t. Mine died a horrible, tragic death and I needed a new one ASAP. I had enough for a decent down payment, but nowhere near enough for a full purchase. (And yes, I could have gotten another jalopy, but I wanted to be a good steward of my money and not buy a fiscal black hole again.) I got an ’05 camry and I hope to not need another car until I’m 50.

    I don’t think financing is the problem. It’s sometimes an only option. However, there are ways to screw it up. Loans, by themselves, didn’t cause this country’s economy to collapse. Loans aren’t the enemy. Our greed is. Yes, you will always pay more in interest than the item’s worth, but if you want to own a house before your children are adults, you have to have a mortgage. There’s also a different price of living in this country. Not just materialistic, but the basics: food, clothing, shelter. Our houses cost more because of building codes, our food is more expensive because of the FDA, and our clothes are more expensive because they’re either shipped from foreign countries or made by American union workers. I know it seems like I’m trying to make excuses for people in America who are struggling financially, but struggling in this country can mean you’re rich in others. Cost of living has to go into the equation or your view isn’t complete.

    All that’s to say that I also struggle with compassion, but mine’s towards lazy people, not struggling ones, and belive me there’s a difference. I have compassion for the guy who bought a house well within his means, got laid off, tried to sell the house before he got upside down in it and couldn’t, and still can’t find work after over 6-12 months of unemployment. That guy’s trying. He made smart decisions and he still had his finances go topsy turvy. I don’t, however, have ANY sympathy for the people who rely on welfare and are able to work. But, then again, the Prodigal Son was pretty stupid with his money and was still helped, so I definitely need to learn compassion for all people, even the lazy ones.

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